Sent: Saturday, July 24, 2004 12:47 PM
Subject: SPROUL'S THEORY OF NEW BIRTH [07/24/04]

In a message dated 7/22/2004 1:56:29 PM Central Daylight Time, a brother writes:

all who believe regeneration precedes faith do not believe God
saves without the use means  -in fact, r c sproul doesn’t believe that, in
spite of one your emails a month or so ago

from chosen by God, beginning on pg 209 – speaking of Paul’s progression in rom
10:13-15 he says, [Paul] lists a series of NECESSARY CONDITIONS FOR PEOPLE TO
BE SAVED. Without sending there are no preachers. without preachers there is no
hearing of the gospel. without the hearing of the gospel there is no believing
of the gospel. without the believing of the gospel there is no calling upon God
to be saved. without the calling upon God to be saved there is no salvation.
God not only foreordains the END of salvation for the elect, he also
foreordained the MEANS to that end. . .”

Dear Brother:

It concerns me that you would think I have misrepresented Dr. Sproul on "means" in relation to the New Birth. Although the idea never crossed my mind that I had somehow misrepresented him, I nevertheless went back and reexamined his views on regeneration.

I have referred to Dr. Sproul in connection with the view advocated by Louis Berkhof on "pre-faith regeneration," or regeneration apart from the necessary use of means as the instrumentality. I understand that Sproul holds to the same basic view as Berkhof. I feel rather certain I have not misrepresented Sproul, for a few years ago I corresponded with one of his magazine writers on this subject, and their view then was presented as I have represented Dr. Sproul in my recent articles.

Having reexamined Sproul's views, I do not find wherein I have made any mistake. In summary, Dr. Sproul appears to hold the following:

(1) The Gospel, or the Word, as a "means" is instrumental in the "outward call," but not in the "inward" or "effectual call." This is clear from his remarks in Chosen of God, pages 134, 135, 120, 121. Also, in his book, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, he discusses Effectual Calling, and on pages 169, 170, he has the Gospel as being used in the "outward call," and does not indicate that the Gospel is instrumental in the "inward call." This is the same position so elaborately taught by Dr. Shedd and also by Dr. Berkhof, that regeneration consists of a separate act, isolated from the use of any means or instrumentality.

(2) By teaching that the New Birth takes place prior to faith, and "in order" to faith, this within itself implies that regeneration does not involve the instrumentality of the Word, or Gospel in the act of regeneration (Chosen of God, page 173). In his discussion of "Rebirth" in his Essentials book (chapter 60), Sproul does not even mention the instrumentality of the Gospel at all. Any Hardshell could accept Sproul's teaching on the New Birth in that chapter. It is "Hardshell to the core."

While all Calvinists, to my knowledge, teach that the Holy Spirit initiates the New Birth, and is the sole "efficient cause" of everything necessary to the New Birth, our Confessional standards teach that the Gospel, or the Word, is the "instrumental" cause in conjunction with the Holy Spirit as the "efficient" cause. The Spirit is the "quickening" power, while the Gospel is the instrumentality which the Spirit uses (John 6:63; 1 Cor. 4:15). [See the London Confession of 1644, #22, #24, #25, and the Second London of 1689, chapters 10 and 14].

We are "called by the Gospel" (2 Thess. 2:14). This is not only true of the "outward" call, but also of the "inward" call, which is made effectual by the Holy Spirit ("For our gospel came not unto you in WORD ONLY, but also in POWER, and in the HOLY GHOST" (1 Thess. 1:5).

Therefore, the WORD and the SPIRIT cannot be SEPARATED in the "inward call" to salvation. One is the INSTRUMENT, and the other is the accompanying efficient POWER.

As I understand Sproul on the "inward call," he isolates the Spirit's work as an "efficient" cause apart from the necessary "instrumentality" of the Gospel in the act of regeneration itself. I went through the entire book, Chosen of God, and found no place where Sproul ever mentions the Gospel, or the Word, as being the instrumental cause of the New Birth.

I hold to the view expressed by Stephen Charnock (and others), that --

"That the gospel is the instrument whereby God brings the soul forth in a new birth."

"(3.) It is therefore a necessary instrument.[1.] In regard of the reasonable creature there must be some declaration. God does not ordinarily work but by means, and does not produce anything without them which may be done with them. . . .it is necessary that this regeneration should be by some word as an instrument, for God has given understanding and will to man. We cannot understand anything, or will anything, but what is proposed to us by some external object; as our eye can see nothing but what is without us, our hand take nothing but what is without us, so it is necessary that God by the word should set before us those things which our understandings may apprehend, and our wills embrace. . . .

"[2.] It is necessary the revelation of this gospel we have should be made. There is a necessity of some revelation, for no man can see that which is not visible, or hear that which has no sound, or know that which is not declared. There is also a necessity of the revelation of this gospel, since faith is a great part of this work. How can any man believe that God is good in Christ, without knowing that he has so declared himself? Since the Spirit takes of Christ's, and shows it to us, there must be a revelation of Christ, and the goodness of God in Christ, before we can believe. Though the manner of this revelation may be different, and the Spirit may renew in an extraordinary manner, yet this is the instrument whereby all spiritual begettings are wrought; the manner may be by visions, dreams, by reading or hearing, yet still it is the gospel which is revealed; the matter revealed is the same, though the formal revelation or manner may be different. Paul's regeneration was by a vision, for at that vision of the light, and that voice of Christ, I suppose him to be renewed, because of that full resignation of his will to Christ, Acts ix. 6, yet the matter of the revelation was the same, that Christ was the Messiah, for so Paul understands it, in giving him the title of Lord. Though God may communicate himself without the written word to some that have it not, yet according to his appointment, not without a revelation of what is in that word."

God begets by the word; the chief operation depends upon the Spirit of God. No sword can cut without a hand to manage it, no engine batter without a force to drive it. The Word is objective in itself, operative by the power of the Spiritefficacious by the Holy Ghost. The Word of Christ is first spirit and then life. 'The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life,' John vi. 63.

"The word is the chariot of the Spirit, the Spirit the guider of the word; there is a gospel comes in word, and there is a gospel comes in power, 1 Thes. i. 5. There is a publishing of the gospel, and there is the 'fullness of the blessing of the gospel,' Rom. xv. 29. 'There was the truth of God spoken by Peter and Paul, and God in that truth working in the heart: Gal. ii. 8, 'He that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me towards the Gentiles.' The gospel in itself is like Christ's voice; the gospel with the Spirit is like Christ's power raising Lazarus; other men might have spoken the same words, but the power of rising must come from above. . . .  The word whereby we are begotten was appointed by God, confirmed by Christ, and the Spirit which begets us was purchased by the same blood.

". . . . the word is the seed of the Spirit, and the Spirit the quickener of the word; the word is the graft, and the Spirit the engrafter; the word is the pool of water, and the Spirit stirs it to make it healing."

See Charnock's work on the Internet:
Stephen Charnock, A Discourse of the Word, the Instrument of Regeneration <>

Dr. John Gill: "The ministry of the word is the vehicle in which the Spirit of God conveys himself and his grace into the hearts of men"
[A Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity, page 384].

Thomas Watson, pastoral associate of Charnock: "The ministry of the word is the pipe or organ; the Spirit of God blowing in it, effectually changes men's hearts"

[A Body of Divinity, page 154].

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